The seaside resort of Puerto Vallarta on the Pacific west coast of Mexico has many attractions for tourists but probably the most spectacular of these is the chance to watch the humpback whales which come to mate in the blue-green waters of Banderas Bay on which the city stands.
The breeding season for the humpback whales begins in mid-December and lasts until the end of March. They migrate from the North Pacific where they are normally to be found to the warm waters off the Mexico coast where they breed, give birth and nurse the newly born calves, as young whales are known.
What to take with you
There are a number of companies who will take you out on boats to watch the humpback whales during the breeding season. The things you should take with you if you go on one of these trips include:
· A waterproof coat, especially if it is a wet and windy day (you can also get splashed by the whales themselves of course!).
· A Camera
Boats which take tourists out into Banderas Bay to watch the North Pacific humpback whales mating and looking after their offspring set off from the marina in Vallarta at 9:30 a.m. from December 8 until March 23. You can also board one of the boats that set sail from the Adventure Center in Nuevo Vallarta at 9 a.m. A full-day, 7-hour trip including light refreshments and soft drinks and snorkeling equipment costs from $85 per person. The minimum age for joining one of these trips is ten. You can also book a half-day 4-hour trip from $55 per person. These set off from the marina in Vallarta at 8:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. To book either of these trips in advance of your arrival in Puerto Vallarta, you can Vallarta Adventures (http://www.vallarta-adventures.com).
Other whale watching tours
You can also watch the North Pacific humpback whales in Banderas Bay from the comfort of a 27-foot luxury vessel operated by Discover Pacific Tours (http://www.discoverpacifictours.com/new). The vessel is fully equipped for whale watching. There is only room for a maximum of eight people on board per trip which makes for an intimate atmosphere and plenty of contact with the crew who are experts in explaining the behavior of the mating humpback whales to tourists. The trip costs $85 per person, lasts half a day and includes a bilingual guide, breakfast, soft drinks and water and a hydrophone through which you can listen to the whales singing.
Ocean Friendly Tours (http://oceanfriendly.com) specialize in whale watching tours off Puerto Vallarta. A professional oceanographer will give you and your party the benefit of their extensive knowledge of the North Pacific humpback whales that you will see on the trip around Banderas Bay. The company owns two fast thirty foot vessels that have lots of space on deck for you to move around and get the best views and photographs of the whales. Their tours set off at 9 a.m. from the marina in Puerto Vallarta, returning about five hours later. The tour, which also includes a sandwich lunch, fruit, bottled water and soft drinks, costs $95 per adult and $75 per child under 8 years of age. They also provide a bilingual oceanologist, a hydrophone and speakers on board the boat.
Open Air Expeditions is a tour company which is owned and operated by marine biologists and oceanographers. Their smaller, faster boats mean you get closer to the whales. Tours with them, which are limited to 12 people per trip, cost $85 per adult and $50 per child and depart from the marina in Puerto Vallarta 8:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m., returning at 12:30 p.m. and 5:30 p.m.